Plan to double the amount of natural space in Cambridgeshire announced

A small stretch of the the Ouse Washes. Picture: Environment Agency

A small stretch of the the Ouse Washes. Picture: Environment Agency - Credit: Archant

Wildlife habitats across Huntingdonshire will form a key part in ambitious plans to double the amount of natural green space in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Fen Drayton Lakes. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Fen Drayton Lakes. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

They include the Great Fen, one of the nation's biggest wetland recreation projects which is developing a 9,000-acre site north of Huntingdon, the restoration of gravel workings at Fen Drayton for an RSPB reserve and the Ouse Washes.

Natural Cambridgeshire, made up from a wide range of organisations in the county including councils, conservation charities and housing developers, is behind the plan to bring the area of Cambridgeshire's nature sites up to the national average.

At present the county has one of the nation's smallest areas of land managed for nature at just eight per cent, and Natural Cambridgeshire wants to double this to 16 per cent.

The project was launched by Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, and James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, at separate events at Waterbeach Barracks, near Cambridge, and the Hamptons, Peterborough.

Natural Cambridgeshire said the sites were both "outstanding examples" of how development could deliver new areas of nature-rich landscape.

It plans to use existing restoration schemes, such as the Great Fen and the Ouse Washes, to help reach the target, together with opportunities provided by the combined authority's economic growth agenda which sees large areas of new green space being provided by housing, mineral extraction and infrastructure development.

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This would include housing development on the former military airfield at Alconbury Weald and post-gravel extraction at Ouse Fen and Fen Drayton.

Natural Cambridgeshire believes that planned housing growth could provide a further 15,000 acres of land for nature over the next 30 years.

Mr Palmer said: "The ambitious growth agenda for the economy needs to be matched with an ambitious growth agenda for the environment. I welcome Natural Cambridgeshire's ambition to double the amount of land that is actively managed for nature so that we can deliver cleaner water, cleaner air and bigger and better places where people and nature can thrive together."

Nigel Hugill, chief executive of Urban&Civic, the developers of Alconbury Weald, said: "Large scale projects can and must lead the way in balancing housing need with meaningful biodiversity gain. We will be judged by future generations on both counts. Urban&Civic has long espoused a trees-first approach and is correspondingly delighted to be engaged from the very outset in this important initiative for Cambridgeshire.

"At Alconbury Weald we worked with the local community to plant trees and create allotments before outline consent was even granted and the transformation of the former barracks at Waterbeach will give rise to five times as many trees as new homes."

Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, Councillor Graham Bull said: "Huntingdonshire has an enviable record of securing and maintaining a network of countryside open space and waterways which contributes significantly to the quality of the district's natural environment and habitat including spaces that have won coveted 'Green Flag' status."